Northern Ireland news

Nama linked court case adjourned

Jamie Bryson said he was seeking this information so he could make submissions regarding which defendant the PPS say warranted a decision to hold a Diplock trial

A court case linked to a Stormont committee hearing into the scandal-hit Nama property deal has been adjourned by the Belfast Recorder.

The high-profile case involves loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, former Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay and Sinn Féin party member Thomas O'Hara.

The trio have been charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office on dates between September 1 and September 24, 2015.

The offence alleges that the defendants manipulated the presentation of evidence before a Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance and Personnel.

All three men were due to be arraigned at Belfast Crown Court today but the hearing was adjourned after it emerged that two of the accused have sought leave to apply for a judicial review into the case.

Also being challenged is a decision to hold the hearing as a Diplock-style trial, which sits without a jury.

Martin O'Rourke, representing Daithi McKay, told Judge Fowler QC he has already filed his application regarding the judicial review and said: "We are challenging the lawfulness of the return in this case."

Mr O'Rourke added that as these proceedings have now been launched, it would be "inappropriate" to arraign his client yesterday.

Mr Bryson - who represented himself at the hearing - confirmed he was also seeking leave to apply for a judicial review.

He appeared via a videolink and told the Belfast Recorder his application will be lodged within the next few days.

The 31-year old told Judge Fowler he was also "seeking further particulars" from the Public Prosecution Service regarding the decision to run the case as a non-jury trial.

Mr Bryson said he was seeking this information so he could make submissions regarding which defendant the PPS say warranted a decision to hold a Diplock trial.

He added: "There will certainly be an effort, in some respects, to challenge the issue of a non-jury certificate in this case."

When asked his position, defence barrister Eugene McKenna, representing Thomas O'Hara, said he did not have any "live challenge to the return" and would be "reserving our position in respect of any potential challenge."

Mr McKenna also said that given the applications made for leave for judicial review, it was not appropriate for his client to be arraigned.

Judge Fowler then sought the views of the Crown regarding defence requests to adjourn the arraignment.

Toby Hedworth QC said that as two of the three defendants were seeking leave to apply for a Judicial Review, provided there was not "excessive delay", the Crown was adopting a neutral position.

After listening to all the oral submissions, Judge Fowler said: "I am quite content in this case to adjourn for a short time to see what is happening in relation to the leave proceedings." He then re-listed the case for May 13.

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